Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 20, 2005)
Note that nowhere on Britney Spears Greatest Hits: My Prerogative does it refer to the set as “Volume One”. That’s a good thing, since based on the current status of Brit’s career, I don’t expect a second set of hits. Don’t take that as criticism from a Britney basher. While I don’t think a lot of her work, I feel Britney does what she does just fine. She makes light dance pop with enough distinctiveness and catchiness to usually stand out from the masses of other teen bimbos.
However, she seems intent on destroying her career via multiple marriages and various goofy endeavors. Britney’s first two albums - 1999’s …Baby One More Time and 2000’s Oops! …I Did It Again - sold extremely well, but 2001’s Britney was a bit of a disappointment. It moved about four million copies, but after the 14 million and nine million of the first two respectively, it didn’t look like that much of a success. 2003’s In the Zone didn’t tank, but it also failed to live up to expectations with about two million copies sold. The diminished returns combined with her continuing decline into celebrity silliness leaves her prospects as a hitmaker looking dim.
Nonetheless, fans can enjoy her body of work through Prerogative, a pretty packed set of hits. The disc includes plenty of tracks from each of her four releases along with some non-album material. The set tosses out five tunes from Britney’s smash debut, …Baby. It includes the title track along with “(You Drive Me) Crazy”, “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart”, “”Born to Make You Happy” and “Sometimes”. From the hit follow-up Oops! we get its title number plus “Stronger”, “Lucky”, and “Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know”.
When we jump to Britney, five more numbers appear. These present the lead-off single “I’m a Slave 4 U” as well as “Boys”, “Overprotected”, “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”, and “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”. (Note that two different videos for “Overprotected” show up here.) In the Zone contributes the Madonna pairing “Me Against the Music” along with “Toxic”, “Everytime” and “Outrageous”. Finally, Britney’s cover of Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” is a new track exclusive to this DVD and its companion CD.
In an unusual move, the set starts with the newest number and works backwards chronologically. That makes “Prerogative” the first track and “…Baby” the last one. It’s an odd choice that I don’t really understand other than to make it tougher for fans to skip the newer, less popular tunes.
My Prerogative (2.35:1) gave me some flashbacks to Madonna’s “Justify My Love”. I can’t say that it copied the earlier video, but something about it led to a feeling of déjà vu. Madonna’s video was overrated, and “Prerogative” comes as a disappointment as well. Britney looks hot and dresses skimpily, but the overall impression left by the clip is one of dullness. Her remake of the Bobby Brown hit also falls short of becoming anything winning.
Outrageous (1.78:1) barely should qualify as a video. It’s only a short snippet, as it lasts a mere 44 seconds. Set on a basketball course, Brit teases Snoop Dogg and that’s it. Am I missing something?
One of the odder videos in this set, Everytime is half “fame sucks” and half… I don’t know what. Brit gets accosted by overzealous fans and paparazzi and also fights with her boyfriend. As she slips into a tub, she notices a head injury and passes out underwater. She goes through a near-death experience and maybe dies - or maybe doesn’t. Who knows? It’s a weird clip set to a dull ballad, but it becomes strangely lyrical and compelling. Plus, Brit shows a lot of skin in the tub.
Toxic (1.78:1) starts with Brit as sexy flight attendant and then sends her into a role as an Alias-style superspy. She also makes out with hunky guys and spends part of the video clad solely in carefully placed jewels and a G-string. As with most of these videos, it doesn’t make much sense, but it’s brisk and entertaining. It helps that “Toxic” is one of Brit’s better songs from the last few years. Her move from teen pop to a more adult electronic sound hasn’t worked terribly well, but this song’s catchy.
Since the prospect of a pairing with Madonna sounds so appealing on paper, I figured Me Against the Music (1.78:1) would probably suck. I was pretty much correct. It’s not a terrible song, but it’s uninspired, and despite the presence of Maddy, the video never goes anywhere either. It doesn’t help that the song renders Madonna to be almost a non-presence; she’s barely a cameo on it, though she gets a lot of screentime in the video.
Britney tries to channel Janet Jackson in Boys (The Co-Ed Remix). She directly quotes a couple Janet tunes in the lyrics and goes for Jackson’s sexy vibe in the music. Mostly the video and tune bore, but we do get some shots of Austin Powers that seem incongruous until we remember that “Boys” appeared on the Goldmember soundtrack. Indeed, this video also showed up on that DVD. As a video from a movie, it was above average. On its own, it’s a dull piece.
Britney’s misbegotten cover of Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll spawns an equally misbegotten video. With some grainy black and white footage and a “real” band behind Brit, it tries to claim some rock cred but fails. Instead, it just makes Brit look like a poseur - albeit a sexy one.
Also less than thrilling, I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman offers another blah ballad. The video combines shots of Brit on some desert cliffs with scenes from her movie Crossroads. It’s a forgettable piece despite Brit’s extremely low-riding pants.
Overprotected (The Darkchild Remix) (1.78:1) starts as a theme piece, as Britney watches a TV report about her “scandalous” outfits. This concept returns at the end, but in between, she just lip-synchs and dances. She looks very hot as she does this, so I shan’t complain. The song is one of her better numbers as well.
As for Overprotected (International Video), the version of the song doesn’t differ greatly from the remix we just heard. The video echoes Janet Jackson’s “Pleasure Principle” as Brit initially dances solo in a large building. Some other dancers join her but they don’t help bolster than unexceptional video.
Everyone always compared Brit to Madonna, but the more I hear/see of tracks like I’m a Slave 4 U, the more I think she really aspires to be like Janet - at least over Brit’s last couple of albums. The tune and video remind me of Janet post-1993. “Slave” is a reasonably catchy number, though the spare electronic production works better in “Toxic”. The video is surprisingly dull given Brit’s attempts at sexiness. I think she tries too hard to be “adult” and it just makes her look tawdry.
Perhaps someday Britney will make a good ballad, but Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know ain’t it. Synthetic and forced, the song doesn’t prove memorable. The video shows Brit as she snuggles with some pretty boy. As usual, she looks good in her skimpy outfit, but since other videos show skin and include better songs and visual concepts, this one becomes expendable.
Stronger (1.78:1) isn’t a great video either, but anytime we see a drenched Britney clad in a skimpy outfit, I won’t complain. She also dances intimately with a chair; again, I refuse to gripe about this. The video is surprisingly dull given these conceits, but it still seems pretty good; most music videos plainly bite, so this one remains above average for the genre.
Lucky (1.78:1) also is interesting. The song’s lyrics suffer from the inevitable “even though I’m a big star, my life sucks – I hate fame!” syndrome that often appears on teen stars’ follow-up efforts, but the video’s fairly good. Britney plays duplicate roles as a successful but lonely and miserable actress and her guardian angel, or some such observer. It’s predictable, but Britney plays the bitchy star well. Hmm… Britney seems much more convincing as a nasty diva than as a happy, perky gal who loves her fans – wonder why that is?
Oops! …I Did It Again (1.78:1) worked well as a video mainly because Britney herself looks hotter than ever; Britney + skin-tight red leather jumpsuit = fun fun fun! Obviously influenced by the clip for Madonna’s “Express Yourself”, “Oops!” seems fairly incoherent, but it shows a lot of spark and sexiness as it helped to market the tune.
The wait for a decent Britney ballad continues with From the Bottom of My Broken Heart (1.78:1). Sappy and drippy, the song is nothing more than puppy love cheese. The video reminds us that Britney once actually acted like a teenager and wasn’t always a total bimbo. She mourns her little high school romance here.
One unintended result of this DVD’s backwards chronology: it makes clips like “Heart” seem almost endearing. If we’d seen this earlier in the set, it’d simply have been goopy and lame. However, since it comes after Brit’s later sexual shenanigans, it nearly turns endearing and charming. Nearly - but not quite.
Although it ain’t saying much, Born to Make You Happy (2.35:1) probably stands as Britney’s best ballad. Actually, it might be a little too danceable to qualify as a true ballad, but since I’d like to say something moderately positive about at least one of her slower songs, I’ll classify it in the genre. The video is basic, as it mostly shows Brit as she lip-synchs and dances. There’s a little more puppy love with a pretty boy, but that’s the extent of the clip’s ambitions. God, it’s so weird to see her look just cute and not terribly sexy. Heck, she even has a pillow fight with her studly boyfriend! Those elements make the video interesting in retrospect but it’s not very compelling otherwise.
Britney’s early songs may have been processed dance pop, but as shown by (You Drive Me) Crazy (The Stop Remix), they were catchy processed dance pop. The video doesn’t prove exciting, though. It looks like it’ll be some kind of theme clip at the start, as we see Brit dressed like a diner waitress. However, it quickly becomes little more than a dance/lip-synch piece, and not a particularly interesting one at that.
Puppy love reigns supreme again in Sometimes. Another generic ballad, this one shows Brit as she pines for her cute boyfriend and pleads for him to give her time. Shades of Janet and “Let’s Wait Awhile”! Happily, Brit eschews the giant door-key earring Miss Jackson sported in that video and looks pretty good here.
To remember where the Britney phenomenon originally launched, we head to the beginning with …Baby One More Time. More good pop cheese, the song remains memorable almost six years later. As for the video, it set up Brit as a jailbait fantasy. In retrospect, the video’s not all that interesting and looks pretty quaint.